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International relations

Japan to maintain support for Myanmar forces' humanitarian role

Abe adviser also presses for dialogue on the Rohingya

Soldiers and rescue workers unload aid from a cargo plane at Sittwe airport in August 2015, after monsoon rains triggered widespread flooding in western Myanmar.   © Reuters

NAYPYITAW -- Japanese forces will continue helping Myanmar's military bolster its capabilities in humanitarian assistance and disaster response, a special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday, despite growing international concern over the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Meeting with Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun here, Kentaro Sonoura stressed the importance of resolving the Rohingya issue in a manner acceptable to the international community. More than 650,000 members of the ethnic minority have fled over the border into Bangladesh since August to escape violence back home.

"Our stance is to say what we have to say but also urge a humanitarian response," Sonoura told The Nikkei after the meeting.

Such countries as the U.K. have stopped providing assistance to Myanmar's military in light of its role in the crackdown on the Rohingya.

U.S. lawmakers are also demanding that Myanmar be excluded from the list of observers to the Cobra Gold joint military exercise kicking off in Thailand next Tuesday under American leadership. Myanmar forces have participated in the drills since 2013.

Sonoura had met with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in January. In Thursday's talk with Thaung Tun, he relayed Bangladesh's demands for a specific timeline for the repatriation process for the Rohingya, as well as a concrete plan to guarantee their safety.

"Rather than rush and make things worse, each party must reach an agreement step by step," Sonoura said. He stressed the need for dialogue involving the Myanmar and Bangladeshi governments and the refugees themselves.

An expert panel's report to the United Nations Security Council claims that Myanmar has purchased rocket launchers from North Korea. "The Myanmar side said they had absolutely no military ties with North Korea," Sonoura told reporters.

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